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May 1, 2018 27 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Constructive Dialogue and the Resistance
A thread by @Clara_Resists & @Augustus709

We’ve seen it happen countless times. Someone tweets something and someone else disagrees. Someone replies with something snarky, someone else bites back.
Others start to chime in and it quickly spirals out of control. Stress magnifies it. Life under the Trump Administration has not been easy. We are at times angry, scared, incredulous, confused.
It’s hard to respond constructively when we are struggling with so much inner turmoil and anxiety.

How can we do this better? How can we debate constructively? How can we engage in a positive way with others who may not play by the same rules?
When we enter into conversations, Michael Kahn contends we keep in mind two purposes, one substantive, one relational. The substantive purpose is about the topic of conversation: Is the purpose about learning something new, testing an idea, persuading, or making a decision?
The relational purpose has to do with the relationship between the speakers. The purpose of conversation can be to build and affirm the relationship with the explicit goal of coming out of the conversation feeling connected, heard, and feeling good about each other.
We often don’t realize that relationship-building can and should be a goal of conversation. When we converse with friends or loved ones, this goal ought to be paramount. When conversing with strangers, this too should be a goal, especially when engaging with fellow resisters.
This notion of building a relationship through conversation draws on the work of philosopher Martin Buber, who claimed that the Self only comes into existence through relationships. “All real living is meeting.” Buber distinguishes between I-It and I-Thou relationships.
In an I-It relationship, the other person is objectified in some way. In an I-Thou relationship, the other person is viewed in as a full human being, accepted for who she is. In relating with another as a Thou, a person also realizes his own full humanity.
The ideal relationship goal of conversation is to create an I-Thou encounter in which the conversants leave the conversation feeling good about each other and the relationship. Conversation should be a meeting not only of minds, but of hearts.
It is with both substantive and relational goals in mind that we should engage in conversation. In doing so, even difficult and contentious substantive matters can be the catalyst for growth.
What are concrete steps we can take to build or strengthen relationships when having conversations about difficult subjects? What do you do when the other person is playing by different rules?
“Know thyself.” It helps to have a pretty solid understanding of your own personal values from the outset, before even engaging with others.
For example, Adrienne believes in Mercy, Kindness, and Compassion. These values are deeply rooted in her personal identity. So when she engages with people on social media, these values are the undercurrent in everything she says.
Keep in mind that most of the people we interact with on Twitter are complete strangers. And the reality is, if they are attacking you or being malicious, it has nothing to do with you. It’s really about them. Recognizing this makes it easier to walk away.
Better to walk away than to respond in anger. Once damaging words are put out there, they can’t be taken back. And, as we’ve often said, how we treat others is about who we are, not who they are.
Believing someone is a bad person does not give us permission to treat them badly. It just makes us a bad person too. And honestly, what if we’re wrong?
What do we mean when we say "someone who doesn't play by the same rules?" We can easily divide this category into subgroups and each one would merit a different response/approach. Like a troll, for example, isn't interested in finding common ground.
Their entire goal is to use words to cause harm. For them, “engaging effectively” has a radically different end result than what we would want. this is a great example of when it is better to just walk away.
But a fellow Resister may be in more of a "fight or flight" frame of mind, while we are coming from more of a "tend and befriend" frame of mind.
Still playing by a different set of rules, still maybe using their words to harm rather than help, but also there's still the potential of finding common ground, so responding with compassion and a bit of patience still has merit.
This is when maintaining the relationship should be absolutely paramount. The goal should not be to “win” the argument, but, to remain united and stronger together.
Words are powerful. They can be used to help or harm. We all have a choice every time we tweet. How are you going to use your words today?
When we see a conflict arising on Twitter, we have the choice to escalate it or diffuse it. It helps to remember than the people we are interacting with are just that--People. Humans with hopes and fears who are probably feeling angry and hurt.
We can’t necessarily fix that for them, but we can respond with compassion. This is one of the challenges with social media. Miscommunication is so easy and it escalates so fast. Instead, try choosing to not “hit back.” Try responding in a way that also de-escalates.
Let’s choose to be strong. Let’s choose to be merciful. Our country needs us right now. And it needs us to be united, not divided. Find ways to connect. There’s a lot of anger & hatred out there right now; We can choose not only to not add to it, but to #resist it with kindness./
Additional resources:

Lauren Hug (@LaurenHug): The Power of Kindness in Our Digital World.

Lee Daniel Kravetz (@LeeDanKravetz): Social contagion makes it easy to spread fear and hate. Here’s how to spread their opposite…
Monica Lewinsky’s (@MonicaLewinsky) TED Talk about cyberbullying and public shaming:…

Source material:…

The Tao of Conversation by Michael Kahn

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